“The measure of mercy is not strained.” When Shylock demanded a pound of flesh as payment, the strictly capitalistic logic was undeniable. Two people enter into a contract and the fulfillment of that contract is binding whether it ruins a person or not. Yet, what was Shylock’s undoing was the strict legalism he used to support his capitalism. He cannot extract the pound of flesh that is his due without killing a man and therefore committing a crime himself.
When we examine the immigration question, we must consider first the role of justice and mercy respectively and remember that mercy is not strained for the sake of a sense of justice. Yes, we have people who reside here illegally. Yes, they can be a burden on the infrastructure. Beyond those two arguments, there really is nothing else that doesn’t slowly descend into the borderline racism of ultra-nationalism. And it is true, these immigrants have broken the law and respect for the law is necessary for a good ordered society. Through the communal adherence to the law, national tranquility is kept safe and protects each of us from injustice. And they have, as I said, prejudiced communities through economic strain and placed undue burdens on them.
Yet, the lesson of Shylock remains: we cannot deal with this issue from a strict, legalistic perspective and motivated by economic concerns. Otherwise, we end up cutting out pounds of flesh and killing people, metaphorically of course. Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, the USCCB chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, said, “We believe the family unit is the cornerstone of society, so it is vital to protect the integrity of the family. For this reason, we are reminded that behind every “statistic” is a person who is a mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother and has dignity as a child of God.”
The logic of this statement is clear: if man has inalienable value and dignity, then we cannot approach issues concerning man from a purely economic standpoint. We must–as Christians, as Americans, as human beings–approach this issue recognizing the inviolable dignity of man and therefore the family. No American could support the dissolution of family units through deportation. It goes against the very foundation of American values: the family. No American can look on and see the government tear families apart without standing up for the obvious injustice.
Similarly, no American could refrain from being generous to hard working, honest people who had the need to escape their home country due to violence or extreme poverty. No American is so heartless, so unfeeling to the cause of the immigrant with whom he shares the desire to breath free air in a free land that he would seriously desire such people to go back to the hell they escaped. Instead, Americans would seek to change the conditions in the home countries of these immigrants so that illegal migration no longer becomes an act of self-preservation. Americans are a compassionate people, eager to help the elements of change in those countries so that the same freedom and justice we enjoy can be had by all.
I sincerely hope that Donald Trump listens to the testimony of the Body of Christ and the patrimony of Western Civilization, and implement policies that ensure that justice is tempered by mercy; that debts be paid but not with blood; and that this nation, conceived in the liberty of man, remains on this earth to lead the world in establishing the natural justice due to all men. Let it always be said of Americans that we never hesitated to help those in need or grant clemency to those who needed it while upholding the demands of the law and justice. That would truly make America great: if we were known not for our wall, but for our love and mercy to those in need.